Worst Cooks in America review: Opposites Attract


The Worst Cooks in America continue their journey to good food with a lesson in flavor. Today we will work with unfamiliar pairings. Given that the recruits don’t necessarily have a firm grasp of what normally goes together, letting them loose with flavors should be a wild ride. We are also treated to the single most unusual cooking tip I have ever heard in many years of cooking TV, so let’s get started!

The Worst Cooks in America recruits enter to find the kitchen decorated for boxing. To begin the day, we will have another game with no prize, but this one at least has some valuable lessons. The recruits will have to “think outside the (boxing) ring” by punching through a paper wall to find an ingredient, and then deciding what other ingredient to pair it with for an unfamiliar flavor match.

The Worst Cooks teams have to create eight pairs including jalapeno and strawberry, peanut butter and pickles, mango and chili, steak and blueberries, tuna and oranges, coconut and garlic, bananas and bacon, and watermelon and feta. Though this serves the typical purpose of madcap zaniness, it does also have an educational aspect. Each pairing can be broadly defined as a standard combo like spicy and sweet, sour and sweet, sweet and salty, or sweet and bitter. Basically, if you can classify each ingredient as a type and know which types pair well, you can make all kinds of weird combos that will actually work.

For the most part, the game goes off without a hitch. Leslie struggles the most, trying to pair bananas and garlic in her first round, and then getting confused about what goes with coconut despite the other team already making the correct combination. In the end, her hesitation loses the game for Chef Anne’s team and Alton’s team wins.

The chefs move on to their skill drill demonstrations of a pizza. Anne shows her team, now all women, how to make a grilled pizzetta with fontina, prosciutto, pears, arugula and truffle honey. Alton shows his team how to make a bacon, fontina and pepper jelly pizza. Anne’s take reminds me a little of my favorite pizza which is actually an Alton Brown recipe. It’s a grilled pizza with prosciutto, mozzarella and dates and it is a perfect combo of sweet and salty. Yum.

As usual, Alton shows his team basically the hardest way to make their pizzas. While Anne uses her fingertips to spread the dough and then a rolling pin to finish the task, Alton teaches the recruits how to hand-toss a pizza. His recruits look justifiably nervous as he throws dough in the air. Everyone will have thirty minutes to create their own pizza using one of the unfamiliar combos from the game.

In general, Alton’s team seems to cook with little trouble, even tossing their pizza dough far better than predicted. I saw not a single dough land on a head or the floor. Over on Anne’s team, each person’s personal hurdles rear their ugly heads. Lulu lacks concentration. In this challenge, she gets overly excited about the chance to get creative and grabs armfuls of ingredients- peanut butter, ham, blueberries, hot honey, garlic oil, basil, pesto. She also spends a fair amount of time singing and dancing.

Bridget continues to cook in the most tense way possible and stays on track with chants of Anne sayings. Today she chants “oil your food, not your pan” among other things. Anne has to take time to tell her to relax, breath and smile. Leslie lacks time management and Anne again finds herself telling Leslie over and over to cook the food. Shannon is the only recruit on Anne’s team that doesn’t seem to have a consistent Achilles heel.

Time is called and Mike over on Alton’s team grabs a slice of his finished pizza. Alton admonishes him and Mike replies, “taste your food, remember?” Anne laughs, “I love it when your recruits talk back to you.”

We begin with Alton’s judging. Monica has made a coconut, garlic, pesto, sundried tomato and cheese pizza. Unfortunately, the pizza has an overriding taste of garlic from the pesto and added garlic so it doesn’t read as a pairing. Kelly has made a mango, chili, feta, pine nut and arugula pizza. Alton notes all the different countries thrown together and proclaims it a mish mash.

Mike calls his dish, “welcome to Mike Jones island” and has used banana and bacon, using slices of the banana on top of the pizza. And now we have the promised weirdest cooking tip. Alton tells him, “I think if you’re going to use a fruit that resembles a cat’s *** so closely, you might consider putting it somewhere under another layer because all I can think of is a cat walking away from me.” So there you have it, folks. There’s a quote for the ol’ family cookbook. Leo’s jalapeno, strawberry, ham and cheese pizza seems quite uninteresting by comparison.

Over on Anne’s team, Lulu has used garlic oil, Canadian ham, blueberries, goat cheese and mint. Anne is shocked that it all works together. Leslie has made a pesto, ham, tomato and mozzarella pizza which is pretty but Anne berates her for making a pretty standard and classic topping. She tells her that she has basically failed the challenge by not doing anything unique, plus her dough is not cooked enough.

Shannon’s apple, bacon, cream cheese, jalapeno and maple syrup pizza hits the notes of heat, sweet and salt and Anne likes it. She would prefer goat cheese, though, for the tang. Bridget is last judged with her Canadian bacon, fontina, pepper jack, sun dried tomato, olive, dried mango and chili olive oil pizza. There’s a lot to it but Anne thinks it works. She just needed to cut everything up smaller so you could get it all together.

For the main dish challenge, they are tackling sweet and savory. My favorite memory of an unexpected sweet and savory pairing was at Epcot in Disney World. We went to the Moroccan restaurant for the first time and my husband ordered a plate of beef brewat and chicken bastilla. This stuff was described as chicken and beef with almonds, powdered sugar and cinnamon and I was horrified. I tried it when it came out, though, and I basically stole the dish from him. Now we refer to it as “meat dessert” and we get it whenever we can.

Anne is making a seared pork tenderloin with grape sauce and mashed sweet potatoes. Alton is making a fruit-stuffed pork chop with chipotle mashed sweet potatoes. After the demo, the recruits have sixty minutes to replicate the dishes, but Anne’s team must make their own fruit sauce and Alton’s must make their own fruit filling.

Over on Alton’s team, Monica is trying to stay orderly and calm, cuts herself while wiping down her station and loses substantial time. Kelly stuffs her pork and begins to cook it only to realize she has left out the buttermilk in her stuffing. She unstuffs the pork, fixes the stuffing, and gets the pork back in the pan. Leo’s grill pan is not hot at all so he doesn’t get a sear and wastes so much time trying to get one that his pork goes into the oven late.

Toward the end, Leo and Kelly seem to be in the worst position. Leo attempts to check his pork temperature with moments on the clock. Alton asks him what the point is. “You couldn’t even microwave it at this point.” Kelly, who also has underdone pork, hears this as Alton telling them they can microwave their pork so she does just that.

Over on Anne’s team, Bridget has selected prunes as her fruit because “a prune looks like a shriveled grape and Anne used grapes in her demo.” Who wants to tell Bridget about raisins? Bridget, her nerves again getting to her, lets her pan burst into flame. Leslie, trying to not be the last to cook and plate yet again, is rushing and she makes a lot of little mistakes. Lulu continues at her normal Lulu pace. If everyone else has frantic techno music in their heads, Lulu has upbeat elevator music.

Judgement time is upon us. We start with Anne’s team. Shannon has made a blood orange and white wine sauce with shallots. Her plating is very nice, her sauce very good, her pork well-seared. Anne just wants more orange flavor. Leslie’s attempt to hurry has paid off with a nice-looking plate. Her tangerine, raspberry and ginger sauce is really good and unique. However, she has forgotten the bacon in her potatoes, and she lacks browning on the meat as well as salt.

Bridget’s prune sauce with boysenberry jelly and port wine is too thick and lumpy. Her potatoes have a good texture but lack cumin, and her pork is well-browned but could have burned had Anne not stepped in. Lulu has made a mango, white wine and cream sauce. Her potatoes are too full of salt and cayenne and Anne reminds her that she needed a lot of coaching to get through.

Over on Alton’s team, Monica has made a dried strawberry and cranberry stuffing but has only managed to get a dot of the stuffing in the pork. Also, her pork is a little over-cooked. Mike presents “the Mikey chop” with a dried pineapple and orange stuffing. His pork is a little rare. Leo’s pork of course lacks grill marks and is also a little rare, but his dried cranberry and apple stuffing is good. Kelly has garnished with a pile of herbs which Alton calls potpourri. Her pork, being microwaved, is a combo of raw and over-cooked/tough. Her apricot and current stuffing is good, though.

Anne’s best cook today is Shannon and she is easily my front runner for Anne’s final recruit. Alton’s best is Leo. Safe are Bridget and Mike. For Anne, the bottom two are Leslie for forgetting ingredients and Lulu for needing lots of help to stay on track. I’m not surprised when she sends Lulu home. Alton’s bottom are Kelly for her pile of herbs and microwaved pork and Monica for her “less than a children’s’ aspirin” of stuffing. Monica goes home. She asks him for a hug and he complies but announces that was his one for the year.

Related Story. Kelly Ngoc Mac, a Worst Cooks recruit who wants to keep cooking. light

Next week the recruits seem to be diving into dessert. Dessert is very precise and many times unfixable, so this should go well.